On Cloud Nine
I’m not a card-carrying aviation enthusiast but I am passionate about flying. I was unashamedly excited when I finally got to travel on an A380, the largest passenger plane in the world. The sight of the behemoth sitting on the runway was second only to the feeling of power when it took off.
The clean, modern layout of the vast cabin was a testament to the design evolution of economy-class travel. The cleanliness, comfort and culinary caliber on offer in the aircraft spoke of the quality of an airline which possesses a fleet of these monstrous machines.
But, then again, that was a long haul flight with a reputable international airline. As most of us are all too aware, however, that’s not indicative of the average flying experience at all…
No term detracts more from the wonder of aviation quite like ‘no-frills airline.’ The advent of low-cost carriers has undoubtedly broadened the literal horizons of millions of travellers who’d otherwise have no way of reaching foreign destinations. But it has also deprived the traveller of comfort, luxury, elegance and class.
Has the terror of no-frills flying with its long queues, shambolic boarding procedures and penny-pinching practices sucked all of the joy out of flying? Or is there still romance left in aviation?
Come Fly With Me
Flying is increasingly seen as a means to an end and air travel has become just one more way to get from A to B. There’s no getting away from the fact that for the average passenger, flying is more than ever a quick and cheap way of getting where they want to go.
For those of us living in Europe, a whole collection of colourful countries is on our doorstep (as long as that doorstep is near an airport). The Americans can likewise cross the entire mighty mass of the contiguous United States in a matter of hours, truly uniting 300 million people over a continent. All of which, of course pales in comparison to the notion that a human being can move between almost any two points on the globe within a day.
So, have people forgotten the nobility of this once-majestic mode of mobility?
A Man In Uniform
Pilots, though their profession is in a state of flux at the moment, are still a respected breed. The sight of an immaculately presented air crew in their spotless, shining uniforms striding through the departure gate still draws our eyes and our admiration.
The cabin crew too, moving about the cabin in their designer uniforms, their old-fashioned elegance and deference to etiquette still is a singular pleasure in a world of gung-ho customer service.
If we still have a sense of romance attached to the people who crew our flights, why not for the act itself?
It’s The Journey, Not The Destination
I adore air travel. I love being on planes. There’s no form of transport which delights, thrills and satisfies me more.
An airplane is a little world. It’s not just a vehicle; it’s a temporary community of sky travellers, all united at 500 mph, 6 miles up in the air.
Nothing beats the atmosphere on board a plane. The myriad clunks, whirrings and bangs while it’s on the tarmac, the ever-present white noise of the engines in-flight. As much as I’d love to travel in Business or First class, I love being in Economy with hundreds of other passengers. I feel connected to them and the backs of their heads make a pleasant detail amongst the shape and space of the cabin.
What’s That Down There?
I’m always sad when a flight lands. I love the journey and I feel at peace at 35000 feet, the beautiful world passing underneath me. My wife is always amazed (and a little bit envious) that I can spend a large chunk of a flight looking out of the window.
Even if there’s just a carpet of clouds to look at, that’s fine by me. The sight of a wide, blue expanse punctuated by columns of puffy white cumulonimbus literally never gets old for me. How often does one get to see the sky from anywhere other than the ground?
The beauty of our planet, seen from the sky, is breathtaking. I can only wonder about how astronauts feel seeing it from space.
I’ve seen craggy mountain ranges while flying over Iran, sparkling atolls standing alone in the Indian Ocean, the urban sprawl of New York after take-off, and the vast greenhouses of the Dutch coast. Such a wondrous display is almost worth the airfare alone.
With all these wonders, why is it that we don’t hold flying in a higher regard?
Space Plane, Anyone?
The Elon Musks and Richard Bransons of this world are promising to bring space tourism to the masses within our lifetime.
In fact, the same day I’m writing this, Virgin Galactic have just successfully taken their passenger rocket ship, SpaceShipTwo to beyond NASA’s 80km definition of outer space for the first time.
Perhaps this will revive people’s interest in flying once again. Maybe people will again appreciate the technological marvel that is leaving the ground and soaring through the skies.
Whatever happens in the future, I invite you to soak up the atmosphere of air travel the next time you fly anywhere. If you look for it, I hope you find there’s still romance left in flying.